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Palm oil plantations in Cameroon ‘took away families’ crop land and burial lands’, hear participants at event in EU Parliament

By Nicole Polsterer

Testimonies on the devastating impact of palm oil production in Colombia, Cameroon and Liberia were the subject of a high level event in Brussels today attended by several MEPs and policymakers. It comes just ahead of a crucial European Parliament vote on MEP Katerina KONEČNÁ’s report on “Palm Oil and deforestation” and the review of the European Union Renewable Energy Directive.

Civil society representatives from palm oil producing countries and international NGOs alike called for a regulatory framework to ensure that  all products placed  on the EU market comply with international standards for community rights and human rights, and are free from deforestation and forest degradation.

Today’s event included a screening of the documentary “Frontera Invisible”, produced by NGO Transport and Environment. In the film, Colombian farmers talked about forced evictions and intimidations of farmers, pollution of waterways, and destruction of fish stocks due to large scale palm oil production.

(c) Jonathan Yiah

Jonathan Yiah of Sustainable Development Institute, Liberia explained that three palm oil concessions are operating in the remaining natural forest of Liberia and of West Africa to this matter. While these plantations are on customary land, the companies often do not respect the principle of “free, prior, and informed consent” of communities. Laurence Wete Soh of Forêts et Développement Rural in Cameroon painted an equally negative picture of the companies’ social responsibility record when it comes to respect for communities. She testified on companies’ land grabbing of land for palm oil used by the communities as burial grounds.

The European Union imports 100 per cent of the palm oil it consumes as biofuel, food or cosmetics, and has a large responsibility to bear when it sources palm oil. While many companies have made pledges to eliminate deforestation from their supply chain, currently there is no means for European consumers to know whether the palm oil has not infringed on human rights or stems from illegal deforestation.

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This event was co-organised by T&E and Fern.

For the event in Parliament today Fern produced a new briefing sheet explaining, in simple terms, the problem with palm oil supply chains, the EU’s role in forest destruction associated with palm oil, and what needs to change.

You can also view the full presentation given by Jonathan Yiah.

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